Affordable Travel

I realize it may seem that I go on a lot of exotic trips around Europe and abroad which may make us seem uber rich. To clarify though, James and I are by no means financially wealthy by most standards. We just plan our trips 'REALLY' well and we know (James in particular) how to make our money go as far as possible in all areas. (*It also helps we don't have children or have to pay rent or a mortgage--all paid off.) Anyway, if you are curious how we make our holidays a reality this is what we do:

- Book far enough in advance to get cheap rates. If you book in advance you can also implement paying it off over a further time making it easier on the pocket books. When we go to Paris, if you book ahead a First Class Eurostar ticket is only £30-45 more each way than Standard class. You don't get food on Standard Class--so you have to figure this expense in as well. A first class ticket, with food and booked ahead is actually a better deal than a Standard fare.

**Our 3 week holidays we go on we book between 4-6 months prior. Weekend breaks we usually book 3-4 months prior.

- Use exchange rates to your advantage. For our long breaks we go to places where the exchange rates are excellent for us. Generally any less developed countries, the Far East, etc you'll be able to make your money go far. For the British Pound going to America right now is economical as its nearly 2 for 1 (1.97$ = 1.00£). We watch the exchange rates for the Dollar like a hawk. The Dollar is the most accepted currency worldwide. When its a good rate, we go to the Post Office here (where we get commission free currency) and change over what we can afford and then keep them for a future trip. Always research to see if you can find a place to change over money commission free. Avoid airports because the fees are ridiculous.

Another thing we do is for small purchases abroad we use our cash, for larger ones--credit cards. You get a better exchange rate for credit cards (i.e. the business rate, not the tourist rate) and you have a month to pay it off before having to pay any interest on it.

-Shop around/compare prices. We spend a lot of time on the internet looking for the best deal for transport and accomodation. Always check more than one site before booking. We frequently stop by the usual places like expedia.com or opodo. For hotels--look on main booking sites to see if you can get a flight/hotel combo deal and then look on the hotels main website page to see if they have a better deal directly. We tend to also avoid travel agents but only use them as a guideline when needed. They will generally charge you more cause they are on commission. Buy a guidebook to get advice on hotels as well.

-Less is More. What we have gotten into with recent trips is doing a dirt cheap base holiday--like two to three star hotels and then ending with a nicer hotel as a treat. Also look into bed and breakfasts because sometimes they are cheaper than a mainstream place.

Souvenirs- traveling makes even the most stupid things in the shops seem cooler. You may think that souvenir 'official' Eiffel Tower beret is great at the time but when you get home you may think twice. Just because its beautiful doesn't mean that it needs to be bought. Sometimes the 'beautiful' should just stay in the shop (like all the amazing shoes I saw in Rome this weekend). Endless trinkets and souvenir plates can make your home more cluttered in my opinion. We do buy trinkets and the 'fun' ocassionally, but we have moved on to buying things that we need or will add to our home in a practical way. For example--- we have bought really nice olive oil for cooking and even cooking utensils and dish towels in the past. If its cheaper abroad and you need it at home why not get it? We only buy something if it will add to our life and if we will regret 'not' getting it when we get home.

- Look at the big picture. Be sure to check which airport you are flying into and whether a good deal for a hotel means that you have to take a 15 minute shuttle bus into the city every day. It actually may be more economical to get as close as you can to the center because of other costs added on top of it.

- Be among the people. Eating on holiday can be a pain in the you know where. For me because I love 'good' food not touristy food finding something that won't make me regret eating it can be a challenge. Generally we avoid eating in hotels as they are more expensive and we also tend to try to find restaurants 'off the touristy' spots (like not eating at the Eiffel Tower). We also look for restaurants that don't have pictures next to them or are printed out all in English (usually horrible translations). If you have waiters standing outside trying to get you in---not a good sign for the quality of the food.

Go to places where mostly the locals go---you'll usually get better food and it will be cheaper. Again look for menus not printed all in English and buy a phrase book to find out what everything is. Its a sad fact that most touristy restaurants don't put as much care into cooking as do locals. Locals keep going back, tourists you'll see once. So who care's if the food is bad?

Find local grocery stores to buy your snacks or lunches. Take a back-pack/day sack and load it up with your water and pringles or whatever. In Rome, we went to the deli counter at a local store and got just enough bread, slices of ham and cheese for sandwiches for lunch. Our entire lunch came to about 8 Euros. Eat your food in a local park or find some curb somewhere as it can be great fun.

-Stop making excuses. There's every reason in the book to say why you can't afford something or can't do something. If you want to do it make it happen. You only have one life and you don't want to say when your 80 and on your death bed, "I only wish I had done this".... Anything is possible and in the end everything does work out with finances somehow.

So these are my 'secrets' on how I can afford so many trips. Not very complicated you can see but it works for us and has given us so many 'priceless' memories in return.


Carly said...

totally agree. Oliver and I do a lot of the same things. We go really cheap on hotels, breakfast, and lunch...but we go all out for dinners, and activities. Also, a lot of time Museums, Churches, etc. have one day a week where they are open to the public for free.

Less developed countries are usually a lot less expensive, and a lot more interesting. Sometimes I find that when I am traveling in a really developed country I still feel like I am in the USA. It is nice to get into the unknown and feel a bit of culture shock.

enickel said...

Great tips! I will keep them all in mind when I have a few free days. Actually my daughter (age 8) went to the art museum here in Tacoma yesterday with the church group because it was the "free" admission day out of the month. She loved it. Taking advantage of those times is wonderful.

Jess said...

I too love the travel tips. We try to plan our trips out too, but that doesn't always happen.

I think sometimes we forget that even though we all don't live in Europe, doesn't mean we can't find really cool places to visit here in the states.

Shad and I were so surprised at all the places we could visit in AZ with in about a 6 hour drive.

I love your posts...thanks for the creative links you send me. I actually was planning to open an Etsy shop until we found out we were moving. So hopefully by the fall I'll have one going. Thanks for thinking of me!

Michelle said...

great post! i'm tucking them away for...SOON! loved hearing about rome! what a dream come true!